The decline of mathematics and creative science these past two decades

Attached is the 98-page report by the National Association of Scholars (NAS) — warning the U..S. that our current trend of encouraging mediocrity in science will have disastrous long-term consequences. In fact, it already has. Comparing scientific thought processes and creative science — in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s — to what we’ve seen during the past two decades … I’ve often concluded to my close colleagues that this is nothing short of terrifying.
“Climbing Down: How the Next Generation Science Standards Diminish Scientific Literacy”

Clearly, this obsession with “diversity, equity, social justice, inclusivity, environmental justice, race-baiting, and gender” nonsense — is seriously destroying the true meaning and focus of the quantitative fields of mathematics and science.

If “education in the fields of math and science” is not corrected and turned around VERY quickly, this nation is headed toward disaster. Among all nations, U.S. students in math and science are already ranked below the top-20 countries, worldwide.

Below is pasted the Summary & Conclusions, and the Recommendation — from the attached 98-page report. I encourage everyone to read the entire report. This could be the most important email of my last 12-13 years of GEITP (2008-2021). ☹

DwN

SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The Next-Generation Science Standards for K-12 teaching (NGSS) are the latest iteration in top-down, untested, and disas­trous education reform — touted by progressive activists, bureau­crats, and philanthropists. The botched rollout of the Common Core State Standards generally illustrates the bad track record of such imposed reforms [135]. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math scores show the same percentage of 8th-graders scoring profi­cient or better in 2017, as the year before their imple­mentation in 2010. This suggests that the similarly unvetted CCSS mathematics curriculum’s negative effects — entirely undid what should have been a decade of improvement in mathematics education [136]. America’s experience with failed education reforms — suggests it should expect little from the NGSS standards.

135 Peter Wood, ed., Drilling through the Core: Why Common Core is Bad for American Education (Pioneer Institute, 2015).

136 National Center for Education Statistics, NAEP Mathematics Report Card, U.S. Department of Education, https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/math_2017/nation/scores?grade=8.

The NGSS actually do possess some good features. The addition of engineering standards — which introduces students to another field of science — is valuable. While we raise concerns about project-based ed­ucation standards, we too recognize that inquiry-based learning can be beneficial, if used as a pedagogical approach in moderation. Raising questions and encouraging curiosity is good. It appeals to the natural inclination of children to question everything in the world around them, and the naturally curious child may take a keen interest in science as a possible career pursuit. Children enjoy the process of discovery. In fact, some of the most valuable scientific discoveries are the result of curi­osity and the inclination to ask questions. It is the imbalance of this ap­proach that raises concerns, since overreliance on inquiry-based proj­ects may not contribute to long-term memory of what is learned. After all, we’re told that students can “just Google it.”

The poor track record of education standards and outcomes— at the hands of progressive education reformers — should, of course, give us all pause, when we consider the merit of any new set of education stan­dards. For decades, America has put its trust in education bureaucrats, not to mention well-meaning, but misguided, philanthropists like Bill Gates, to decide what is best for American schoolchildren. This has left us with unfulfilled promises of better educational outcomes, frustra­tion by parents and their children, with a de facto national curriculum in the form of CCSS, and consequent flat NAEP score growth since its implementation.

Adopting the new science standards nationwide may offer nothing better. It should come as no surprise that, given the pre­vious failures of constructivist math (“the new math”) in the mid-20th century, America has not fared any better with the constructivist math­ematics of CCSS. The assurances of superior education — resulting from math standards that were never piloted or vetted prior to implemen­tation — were simply hollow. How can the NGSS, without pilot testing or vetting, promise any better? We will not know the outcome of the NGSS until a generation of school children has completed its K-12 education. The potential cost of this educational gamble is much too high. The NGSS are an uncontrolled experiment in how to ruin science education in the name of reform.

Students should be able to engage in thoughtful analysis, sort through evidence, systematically analyze it, and then build arguments based on findings. Moreover, science education should be about discov­ering truth, not just assembling and regurgitating facts. Unfortunately, the NGSS abandon both. The NGSS severely neglect content instruction, politicize much of the content that remains, largely in the service of a diversity and equity nonsensical political agenda, and abandon instruction of the sci­entific method. The NGSS will leave students unable to use the scientific method as a way to approach the truth. Furthermore, content knowl­edge is replaced with group projects, and (it appears, anyway) consensus answers to scientific questions, rather than verifiable evidence, are ac­cepted without challenge. This is not real science, and it will most likely lead to more widespread issues of politicized groupthink and irrepro­ducible science — as described by David Randall and Christopher Welser in their National Association of Scholars (NAS) report, The Irreproducibility Crisis of Modern Science [137].

137 Randall and Welser, The Irreproducibility Crisis of Modern Science.

The NGSS fail to prepare students for undergraduate science coursework and to provide the basic scientific competency that all Americans should have when they graduate from high school, regard­less of whether they proceed to an interdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineeering & Mathematics (STEM) career. NGSS proponents pre­sume that college professors will compensate for the resulting deficits in K-12 science education. If they do, this will reduce undergraduate science courses to remedial classes. If they don’t, a large number of un­prepared college students, ill-served by the NGSS, will fail out of intro­ductory science classes. Either way, the NGSS will do terrible damage both to college students and to colleges.

The most fundamental flaw of the NGSS is the missing essential sci­ence content. The “Framework for K-12 Science Education”, which was the foundation for the NGSS, summarizes the intended goal of the standards:

The overarching goal of our framework for K-12 science education is to ensure that by the end of the 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science; possess sufficient knowledge of science and en­gineering to engage in public discussions on related issues; are careful consumers of scientific and technological information related to their everyday lives; are able to continue to learn about science outside school; and have the skills to enter careers of their choice, including (but not limit­ed to) careers in science, engineering, and technology [138]. [Underlining for emphasis added]

138 Framework, p. 1.

This “overarching goal” makes it quite clear that the NGSS func­tion as a set of what Ze’ev Wurman (former senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Education and outspoken critic of the NGSS) so aptly calls science appreciation standards rather than rigorous education­al standards [139].

139 Ze’ev Wurman, “Education to Raise Technology Consumers Instead of Technology Creators,” Monolithic 3D, August 4, 2011, http://www.monolithic3d.com/blog/education-to-raise-technology-consumers-in­stead-of-technology-creators.

State education departments and boards of education should avoid adopting the NGSS — and, if they already have adopted it, immediately replace it with superior standards. The price of continuing with this ed­ucational folly is far too high.

The content errors, numerous omissions, imbalance in content, feasibility concerns with the implementation of integrated standards, obvious political dogma, and major shift in pedagogy — should all give deci­sion-makers pause. To adopt an entirely new set of standards — without any evidence of success through pilot testing — is a dangerous educational experiment that is a disservice to all high school students, regardless of whether they plan to pursue STEM careers, but especially so for those who do.

Blanket adoption of the NGSS without careful comparison to oth­er existing science standards — those rated higher than the NGSS by Fordham — is not beneficial. This should never happen, although many states have done so. It is time to engage in careful appraisal and ask questions about the science, or lack thereof, being taught in our schools.

We offer the following recommendations to States and school districts:

1. If a State has not adopted new science standards and wishes to update and improve its existing standards, it should use the science standards graded as ‘A’ by the Fordham Review as a template. It should compare them with and find any helpful additions from the NGSS, such as the engineering standards that will introduce students to a new discipline, but with the understanding that students will likely not have the prerequisite mathematics preparation for true engi­neering standards in the upper grades.

2. States that have already adopted the NGSS should compare them with the other State science standards graded as ‘A’ by Fordham and make changes, additions, and deletions as needed.

3. Chemistry and physics standards should be supplemented with previous existing standards to provide solid, complete high-school level courses for students who plan to pursue STEM in college.

4. States should strongly consider replacing CCSS mathemat­ics with higher-level standards, such as the excellent and highly rated pre-CCSS California mathematics standards, to allow students to begin algebra in 8th rather than 9th grade. This will better prepare STEM-bound students as they enter college-level work.

5. States which choose to incorporate engineering in K-12 science education should adopt rigorous standards that require substantial amounts of mathematics.

6. States should allow, encourage, or require students to begin algebra in 8th grade rather than 9th, so that they may be prepared for rigorous high-school science classes.

7. School districts using the NGSS should encourage science teachers to use pedagogies that emphasize knowledge reten­tion rather than project learning.

8. States should ensure that science instruction focuses its case studies on individual effort, scientific dissent, and para­digm shifts, selected from the most important episodes in the history of science, without reference to the race or gender of the scientists in question — but rather with preference for outstanding representatives of the American scientific and engineering tradition, i.e., Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Othniel Charles Marsh, Josiah Willard Gibbs, Thomas Edison, Edwin Armstrong, Edwin Hubble, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Claude Shannon, William Shockley, Linus Pauling, Richard Feynman, Robert Jarvik, and James Watson.

9. States should remove all political commitments from science education, especially those to diversity, environmentalism, and activism.

10. States should ensure that science standards steer students toward the full range of scientific careers and highlight how science and engineering can and should serve the American national interest.

11. States should ensure that science standards emphasize that devotion to science and engineering is its own reward, with­out reference to any “societal need,” and that all research and design can and should aim, above all, for truth and beauty.

CONCLUSION

The warning issued in 1983 by Dr. Glenn Seaborg and his colleagues in the opening paragraphs of A Nation at Risk could have been a critique of the NGSS:

…the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people…

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves … We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, uni­lateral educational disarmament [140].

140 A Nation at Risk, p. 7.

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